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BOOK REVIEW: FORD GT

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Oct 3, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Book Review

FORD GT: THE LEGEND COMES TO LIFE by Larry Edsall forward by Carroll Shelby ST Paul, MN: Motorbooks International, 2004 Hard Bound; 144 pages 9w x 12h ISBN: 0760319936 Catalog Id: 137445 $24.95

Review by BRIAN KENNEDY

Let's get this out of the way right now: if you're lucky enough to have the money to buy a new Ford GT, then you'd better get this book to go along with it. If nothing else, it will make you look smart when people come up to you and want to talk about your new toy, which they will.

But what about the rest of us, the lusters who will never have the car, but might be lucky enough to get a die-cast version of it, or maybe even sit in one (forget driving it - would you let you drive the GT if you owned it?), the people who hope against hope that that lotto ticket will come up magic. We need this book, too, and not just for what it says about the GT. This book is far more than a single-marque coffee table volume. Instead, it gives a history of Ford exotic concepts and answers some questions that you might never have thought to ask, but which you'll discover you want to know the truth about anyway: What happened to the impulse to supercar performance at Ford that resulted in the original GT40s, and why did it seem to disappear for nearly forty years? What kind of effort does it take to design and build an exotic car from scratch, in a hurry? And while you do it, how do you combine hot rod sensibilities with modern-day science to make a car that doesn't just have the halo outline of its older sibling but uses the latest ideas in materials and assembly techniques and pushes them to new dimensions?

Without giving away all of the secrets of Ford GT: The Legend Comes to Life, let me give you a couple of clues as to how the questions above might be answered. First, the hope for a Ford supercar didn't die after Le Mans was conquered in 1966, or even with the demise of the original GT40 Mark IV after its Le Mans victory in 1967. Instead, a dedicated group within Ford Motor Company kept the flame burning through a variety of projects. It was just that none quite hit on the right combination of speed, sexiness, and marketability that made the people at the top say "build it." Second, even when they did, it was not a simple matter of grabbing people and parts and assembling a team and a car. It took a special and daring effort to make the new GT come to life, and the story of how that happened is detailed nicely through insider stories. As he imparts these facts and anecdotes, Larry Edsall does so in a smooth and compelling style, less magazine writer than conversationalist. One difficulty which Edsall tackles nicely in a variety of places in the book is the need to design the car from the outside in. Instead of changing the body dynamics whenever they came to a problem like fitting the supercharger or building in crashworthiness as they would in a normal automotive design process, the Ford engineers had a hard shape to work with and had to come up with creative ways to use the space available. Reading about their solutions helps make it clear why the car costs what it does. This is a machine that's probably (though I'm assuming - Edsall doesn't say this) more complicated in its engineering than the moon rockets designed around the time of the original GT40 models.

After going through the history, the book runs readers through the dynamic testing process of both the chassis and engine of the new GT, talks about the role of computers in design, and ends by giving a sense of what the car feels like at 200mph, and the engineering feats it took to get it there. Then, it takes readers on a lap of Laguna Seca with Dan Gurney at the wheel. The last section is a detailed specifications chart comparing the new GT to its 1960s siblings, followed by a bibliography for further reading. In addition to the text, there are the pictures you'd expect, from the Le Mans win to shots of loads of people whose names enthusiasts have come to know including Shelby, Gurney, and J Mays. And it has pictures and background on people you don't yet know, but who were instrumental in getting the GT to market. The photos detail carefully and in color the various prototypes that preceded the GT, the book featuring loads of shots of the car as it will shortly be released to those lucky buyers with around $150k to drop.

Readers will have all they want of angles to ponder and details to salivate over. Their only difficulty might be their inability to contain their fervor of want for the car, and this could lead to a problem. What's the old saying - you can live in your car, but you can't drive your house. Hmmm . . . .

Ford GT: The Legend Comes To Life, $24.95, MBI Publishing Company Available in bookstores everywhere, through Classic Motorbooks at (800) 826-6600 or on www.motorbooks.com.

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